The Punishment of the Stingy and Other Indian Stories, by George Bird Grinnell, , at sacred-texts.com
p. 158 p. 159
MANY years ago there was a Nez Perce Indian whose name was Ragged Head. He wore the long hair on the front of his head tied up in a bunch, and the ends hanging over were ragged and of different lengths. This was why they gave him this name. This man was a great warrior. He could not be killed. When he was a young man his dream helper had come to him in his sleep and had spoken to him, saying:
"My son, you are a man who need not fear to go into battle, for neither arrow nor bullet nor lance nor knife can hurt you. You may rush into the very midst of the enemy, and they will all run away from you. Take courage, therefore, take great courage." Then his dream helper smoked with him.
But when the dream helper had spoken to
him in his sleep, and had told him that he need not be afraid of his enemies, and had smoked with him, it had said further:
"My son, some day you must die, and it may be that you will be killed by your enemy, for there is one thing that can hurt you. Only one thing, but of this you must be careful. If you should be shot with a ramrod, it will pierce your flesh and you will die."
After Ragged Head had returned to the camp, he told this part of his dream to no one, except to two of his close friends, for he did not wish it to be known and talked about. None of these three men thought much about it, nor felt afraid, for every one knows that people when they are in battle and are trying to kill their enemies, do not shoot ramrods at them, but bullets.
When this man went to war he did not carry a gun, nor arrows, nor a lance. His weapon was a great war-club, made from the butt of an elk antler. With this he used to beat down his enemies. In the end of the club he had put a lash, and he used it also as a riding quirt.
Every summer Ragged Head used to cross the mountains from his country to the plains,
to hunt buffalo and to make war on the Piegans. When he saw a party of his enemies, he would charge down upon them, shaking his war-club and shouting out the war-cry; and when the Piegans saw who it was that was coming they all tried to get out of his way, for they knew that he could not be killed, and that they could not do anything to hurt him. So he killed many of his enemies, and had great fame among his own people and among those against whom he fought. He was a leader of war-parties and always successful. Everybody was afraid of him, for all people knew that he had strong spiritual power, and that he could not be killed.
It was early summer. The grass had started. The snow was melting on the mountains. Already the streams were high. It was time to go to war.
From their camp on the plains a party of Piegans set out on the war-path to cross the mountains and take horses from their enemies on the other sideSnakes, Flat Heads, or Nez Percés. On foot they made their way along the lower hills, climbed up through the narrow pass, and at length stood on the top of the mountain range, from which they could look
out over the lower country to the west. There, in the wide gray plain before them, they could trace the winding courses of many streams, and from some of them rose smokes which showed that people were camped there, and they knew that these people were their enemies.
While they were stopping here, overlooking the country, the leader of the war-party said to his young men:
"Now, here we will separate and go off in small parties to see what we can discover, and after ten nights we will all meet again at the Round Butte at the foot of this mountain, and return to our camp together."
So here the party divided, going off by twos and threes to try to find the camps of their enemies.
There were two young Piegans who went off together. The younger of the two carried a bow and arrows, and the other had an old shot-gun the barrels of which had been cut off short, so that he could carry it under his robe without its being seen. The tube which had held the ramrod in its place had been broken off, and there was no way to carry the rod except in
the barrel of the gun. When the boy was shooting, he held the ramrod in his hand.
After a few days travel these young men found a trail where people had passed not long before, and following this trail, they saw a camp, and hid themselves near by to wait for night and then to go to it and take horses. This was the camp of the Nez Percés, and Ragged Head was its chief.
In the night, after it was dark and the camp had become quiet, the young men crept down to the river, close to the lodges, to see what they might do. The older boy said to his companion, "I will go first into the camp and see how things are there, and perhaps take a horse or two, and then I will come back here and tell you, and we can both go back and take more horses if all goes well." The other said, "It is good; I will wait for you here."
The older boy crossed the stream and crept into the camp and looked about. The people were sleeping; it was all quiet, and in front of the lodges were tied many fine horses. He found two that he liked, and cut the ropes that held them, and led them back across the stream to where he had left his friend; but when he
reached the place his friend was not waiting there. So the young man led the horses into the brush and tied them, and crossed the stream again for more. As he was wading through the water, carrying his gun muzzle up so that the ramrod should not fall out, and when he was near the other bank, he saw a man standing there, and thought it was his friend.
When he came close to him he said: "Why did you not wait for me on the other side, as you said you would?" The person did not answer, but stretched out his left hand and caught the boy by the hair, pulled him forward, and raised a great club, as if to strike him.
Then the young Piegan was frightened. He put up his left hand to ward off the blow, and with his right he pushed the muzzle of his shot-gun against the person's body and pulled both triggers. The gun went off. The man fell, and the young Piegan quickly ran away.
At the sound of the shot all the Nez Percés rushed out of their lodges and up and down the stream to learn what had happened. On the river-bank they found Ragged Head dead. In his body was the splintered ramrod.